If Apple Gets Into AR or VR, It Should and Probably Will Be a New Platform

Zach LeBar:

Here’s a crazy theory: what if Apple’s big AR play, is macOS-focused?

We know that Tim Cook has repeatedly talked about how AR is an interest of Apple’s. On analyst calls they often deflect attention from questions about VR towards AR. Up ‘til now, most have assumed this is because Apple is more interested in iOS-based applications of these technologies, and that they’re looking to differentiate themselves from their Android-based competitors who are already offering VR options. There have even been rumors from as recently as CES 2017 that talk about Carl Zeiss partnering with Apple on a set of AR glasses. The pundits are assuming it’s iPhone-related. But Scoble’s report doesn’t say one way or the other.

What if we’re all looking in the wrong direction? What if we’re blinded by iOS and missing what a tremendous play AR for macOS could be?

This isn’t how Apple typically approaches new human-computer interaction technologies. They don’t just retrofit their existing platform for the new technology. That’s what Microsoft does with Windows. The iPhone didn’t run the Mac OS. The underlying core OS, yes, but everything user-facing was done from scratch, specific to the nature of a touch screen. Apple creates new platforms for new interaction technologies.

I strongly suspect that’s what Apple would do for AR or VR. It could piggyback on the iPhone for network connectivity, as the Watch does, but it’d be its own software platform.

I suppose it’s possible that Apple could use AR just to impose a big virtual display in front of the user. That wouldn’t work at all with iOS’s touch-based paradigm. It could work with the Mac’s mouse pointer and keyboard paradigm. But it doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. I don’t think it would be better than a non-virtual big display on your desktop, and I don’t think toting around a bulky pair of goggles would be better than the built-in displays on MacBooks. It just seems incredibly short-sighted to treat AR or VR as an output for traditional desktop computing.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017